Until the 1990s, the 1960s marked the longest uninterrupted period of American economic expansion. The American economy was the largest in the world. Its giant corporations, such as General Motors, IBM, Procter & Gamble, and Coca-Cola extended their influence and dominance to every corner of the globe. American companies grew ever larger during the decade. In 1962, the five largest industrial companies accounted for 12 percent of American manufacturing assets. The largest five hundred companies controlled 66 percent of such assets. Big business dominated the American economic landscape.
Individual Americans did very well during the decade, too. By the end of the decade, the average American's real income had increased 50 percent since 1950, giving Americans a standard of living that was envied throughout the world. Median family income rose from $8,540 in 1963 to $10,770 by 1969. Americans used their growing discretionary income (income not needed for basic necessities) on a growing number of consumer goods.
Retailing continued to change to suit Americans' tastes for consumer goods. Wal-Mart and Kmart emerged as the leading examples of a new kind of variety store. Both stores carried a range of merchandise, from clothes to hardware to toys, that was offered at a discount price. Critics of the stores accused them of contributing to the death of the small-town storekeeper, who could not compete with the chain's low prices.
Two companies tapped into the growing power of American advertising to make themselves household names. Budweiser became the country's—and soon the world's—most popular beer, thanks largely to advertisements on sports programs and a growing distribution network. A new company, Nike, popularized the athletic shoe by associating its products with famous athletes. Many other products influenced popular culture in the decade.